On 9 August, 2014 Crouch End-based swimmer Sushila Ghose-Coveney, age 16, of Haringey Aquatics will be the first-ever female in the club’s history to swim at the British Age Group National Swim Championships in Sheffield; she will compete in the 50m backstroke. “This has always been my dream, to compete on the national stage,” reflects Ghose-Coveney.
Haringey Aquatics, under the direction of Head Coach Paul Doyle, provides swim development and performance training at three Haringey-based pools: Northumberland Park Community School (Learn 2 Swim), Tottenham Green Leisure Centre and Park Road Pools in Crouch End.
The competitive swim club is on a roll. Last year, Haringey Aquatics fielded its first-ever male national swimmer, Josh Philpott, after building the program from scratch in 2009. In early 2014, it was promoted into Division 1 of the National Junior Swim League.
Six years ago, Ghose-Coveney, then a pupil at Coleridge Primary School, was first spotted by a Haringey Aquatics coach at an inter-school swim competition; this event became a significant milestone in her life. It was the fusion of two important discoveries, one by the coaches who said, “she’s got what it takes, that look in her eye”, and by Ghose-Coveney whose sizeable win that day kick-started her academic self-confidence. Winning the 50 backstroke by more than a pool’s length, then shortly thereafter, breaking the Borough record in the long jump, she found that all important key to self-confidence.
AN ALARMING TREND OF BELOW AVERAGE SCHOOL SWIMMING
Ghose-Coveney’s hard-earned success is a classic case study for the importance of British youth getting into the swim of things — at school and a local competitive club. She is excelling against a backdrop of below average school swimming participation, both in London and nationally.
Unbeknownst to many parents, swimming is a compulsory part of the national PE curriculum for the primary reason it is the only sport that saves lives and prevents unnecessary deaths. In England, drowning is the third most common cause of death amongst children and the numbers are increasing with nearly 50 accidental, drowning-related deaths last year.
Figures recently released by the Amateur Swimming Association found that over half of kids aged 7-11 years in London cannot swim 25m unaided (59%), with 49% of parents suggesting they do not believe their child could swim if in danger in the water. According to ASA research, Newham has the lowest learn to swim rates in London with just 16% of kids able to swim 25m unaided. Increasing pressure on school budgets is certainly a contributing factor.
According to local Councillor Anne Waters, Lead Member for Children and Families, Labour Councillor for Woodside Ward, the cost outlined in the local authority service level agreement (SLA) to schools is £148 per pupil for a year’s swimming.
Like Ghose-Coveney, Haringey is bucking the trend. Councillor Waters reports that 100% of Haringey primary and junior schools offer swimming for a year to either year 5 or 6 pupils, fulfilling the government’s guidance offer for KS2 (Key State 2). This commitment to sport is best reflected in the 2014 London Youth Games, an important inter-Borough youth sports competition, in which Haringey brought home two golds, a silver and six bronze medals in swimming and diving-related events. The Borough, under the direction of Burk Gravis of the Haringey Sports Development Trust, moved into 6th overall, up from 8th place in 2013. Top five is now well within the Borough’s reach in 2015.
SWIMMER TAKES AN IMPORTANT LIFE LESSONS INTO NATIONALS NEXT MONTH
Ghose-Coveney herself was at one point close to death, age 13, after a tragic hiking accident in which she fell on a sharp, rusty fence post, yielding a 15 cm cut across her right thigh. In the middle of a remote, countryside hill at the time, both the ambulance and rescue helicopter were unable to reach her. Her family were struggling to hold the leg together and to keep her calm to prevent her from going unconscious. Her mother praises her daughter’s psychological strength, developed partially through competitive swimming, for enabling Ghose-Coveney to keep a cool head and steady nerves throughout the whole incident. After an hour-long wait, she was finally helicoptered (on her own) to the hospital and escorted by police to A&E. She was hospitalised for four days, prevented from going into the water for several months and it was at least a year until she was able to attain her previous competitive swimming times.
In the years leading up to 2014, Ghose-Coveney powered back stronger than ever, guided by swim coach Joe Doyle, who had a degree in sports psychology, and his father Head of Performance Coaching, Paul Doyle. She kept working tirelessly towards her dream of a spot on the national stage – and her hard work paid off. Last year, she racked up 35 medals, 6 trophies, top female swimmer awards, cash and of course, her main prize, a national qualifying time (NQT) in 2014, secured at the Olympic Aquatic Centre regional championships in May.
Now a thriving, confident pupil at Highgate Wood School, she has chosen her career path based on the influence of her coaches; she will study psychology, biology, sociology and PE at A-levels. She has also given back to other younger Haringey athletes by volunteering for Haringey’s Sports Development Trust “Whizz Kids”— sports camps run by Burk Gravis — where she has worked as a one-to-one coach for a child with learning disabilities. She is also Haringey Aquatics Senior Head Girl, providing leadership and support to more than75 young, female swimmers.
Ghose-Coveney is grateful for all the encouragement and self-belief her coaches gave her. Inspired by the power of coaching in her own life, she’s not ruling out the possibility of being a school swimming coach someday.